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The agriculture ministry said Thursday it will soon file criminal complaints against four companies over alleged sales of imported substandard rice as edible food in violation of the Food Sanitation Law.

The rice had been considered not suitable for human consumption because it was moldy, among other reasons. Records were doctored to make it appear as if the rice had been turned into animal feed, the ministry said.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry looked into the distribution of the imported rice, which totaled 82 tons, in October 2008, when the problem of substandard rice surfaced, but found nothing questionable at the time.

But a separate probe this year into the use of rice in food processing led to the allegation of illegal use of substandard rice by the companies in question.

Although it is not clear if the rice has already been consumed, the ministry has confirmed that 19 tons were used as an ingredient in “shochu” spirits. There are thought to be no health concerns arising from its consumption.

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